Fort Parker State Park Sign

Fort Parker State Park
December 27, 2007 - January 1, 2008

Fort Parker State Park - Thursday, December 27, 2007

Terry and I are headed to Fort Parker State Park near Mexia, Texas. We'll be leading the North Texas Camping Association's annual New Year's campout. This is always one of the most fun campouts of the year. We were supposed to head the campout up last year but I was just out of the hospital with a staph infection on my left leg and was "house bound." Last year a tornado came through the park. Fortunately no one was hurt or any equipment damaged. The tornado did tear up one area of the park, but thank goodness no one was camping in the area at the time. We're very thankful for that.

We left our storage facility around 6:30. Terry and I had a big lunch on purpose so we wouldn't have to stop for dinner on the way to the park. The trip to the park was uneventful and we arrived at the park around 9:00. We chose site #24 since it was easy to back into and the satellite dish had a good southern view. By 9:30 we had taken care of our minimal setup and settled in for the evening. We'd finish our outside setup tomorrow during the day. I looked down the road and several members of our group had already arrived. We'd talk to everyone tomorrow, tonight we were tired. By the time we headed inside for the night, the temperatures had gotten quite chilly. The high for the day was in the lower 50's. Terry and I watched the evening news and weather and turned in around 10:30 and slept soundly throughout the night. It's good sleeping weather when the temperatures are cool.

Fort Parker is one of the wonderful CCC (Civilian Conservations Corps) parks that was built in the 1930's. What an incredible legacy the CCC workers have left for all of us to enjoy around the United States. Texas is very fortunate to have numerous state parks that were built by the CCC. It's amazing to us that the structures are still being used today. The CCC workers built their structures with integrity and they were built to last many decades into the future.

Construction of Fort Parker State Park began in August of 1935. The group assigned to build the park was Company 3807C, an African American unit. They worked on the site from 1935 through 1942 constructing roads, park buildings and facilities as well as the dam across the Navasota River. They also worked on the original reconstruction of Old Fort Parker. Fort Parker was being reconstructed to celebrate the Texas Centennial Celebration in 1936. Fort Parker was officially dedicated by former Governor Pat Neff in May of 1941 and opened to the public.

Fort Parker State Park - Friday, December 28, 2007

Terry and I woke to a very chilly morning. The temperature outside was in the upper 30's. My first duty of the morning was to get a pot of coffee brewing. As cool as it was, it's definitely a "coffee kind of a morning". I also needed to run up to the front gate by 8:00 to claim our group's sites and get the key to the activity center (Rec Hall) where we'd be holding all of our group activities for the weekend. Since our group had reserved the whole park, 24 sites, the park ranger was kind enough to let us use the activity center all weekend at no charge. Our group has been meeting at Fort Parker for several years now and we have a good track record with the park's managers. This is normally a slow time of the year for the park and a "sell out" is a good feather in the cap of the head ranger.

I got everything settled at the gate, got the key to the Rec center and headed back to our campsite. While I was at the front gate, Terry started working on breakfast. On the menu this morning:

Breakfast was wonderful. It's our favorite meal when we're camping. There's just something about the smells of breakfast wafting through a campsite, especially coffee brewing early in the morning. Yum! After getting the breakfast dishes cleaned up and showering, we went outside to get all of our outside stuff setup. While Terry pulled the awning out and hung the lights, I worked on getting our satellite dish setup and zeroed in on the "bird in the sky." Site #24 had an awesome view of the southern sky. I was able to get a signal in a jiff. By the time we finished all of our chores outside both of us were getting a bit hungry. We decided on ham sandwiches for lunch accompanied by potato chips and cookies for dessert. To take the chill off, I made a campfire since the temperatures were in the lower 50's. We sat by the fire and read and greeted members of our group as they arrived.

All Set Up In Site #24 For The Weekend

Our Pilgrim setup at Fort Parker US and Texas Flags Flying Proudly
Our Pilgrim all setup for the New Year's weekend United States and Texas Flags flying proudly!
Ready for relaxation Lake Springfield
Ready to kick back and realx! The view of Lake Springfield from site #24

After lunch I decided to setup the grill for tonight's dinner. We were having "Bubba Burgers", one of Terry's favorite hamburgers now. When setting up the grill I found out that our 20# propane bottle was just about empty. It was time for a "road trip" to Mexia so we could pick up a replacement tank of propane. Terry decided to stay at the campsite in case any of the new arrivals had any questions, plus there was a campfire going, what more would she need? Mexia was a short 10-15 minute drive from the park. I found a place to do a tank swap and also filled up the truck at the same time.

I arrived back to our trailer and hooked up the new propane tank. Terry was sitting by the fire taking a short nap. Napping and camping go together perfectly. While Terry was napping by the campfire, I worked on the nametags and lanyards for everyone. When I'm in charge of a campout, I always like to furnish nametags for the attendees. That way everyone can get to know everyone, especially the new folks.

At 5:00 I started the grill up for the "Bubba Burgers". We were having burgers with all the fixin's, homemade French fries and cokes to drink. Dinner was awesome. There's nothing better that burgers cooked on the grill, especially when you're camping in the great outdoors. Most of our folks had arrived and had gotten settled in. I had let everyone know that I'd open up the Rec Hall around 6:00 so everyone could gather for a "game night".

Around 6:00 Terry and I headed up to the Rec Hall to open it up for a game night of fellowship and fun. Some of the folks brought "munchies" foods to snack on. The cool evening temperatures were starting to move in. We could tell it was going to be a chilly night. Terry and I got a game of Phase 10 going with 4 other players. With 6 in the game it made the game pretty tough. We both ended up loosing but had a great time. There were around 20 or so other folks in the Rec hall as well, split up into groups playing their chosen board or card games.

Lake Springfield Sunset, Fort Parker State Park
One of the beautiful sunsets over Lake Springfield

At 10:00 it was time to call it a night. Most of the folks were tired after the long day and were ready to head back to their trailers. Terry and I turned out the lights, locked up, and headed back to our trailer. Burr, our warm trailer was going to feel very good. I'm glad we left our little electric heater on to take the chill off. We watched the local news and weather before turning in around 11:00. The flannel sheets on the bed felt really good on such a chilly night. Terry and I both slept very soundly through the night. The trailer kept us warm and snug even though the outside temperature was in the upper 30's.

Fort Parker State Park - Saturday, December 29, 2007

Terry and I both woke up at 8:00 after a sound night's sleep. While Terry showered, I put on a pot of coffee for the two of us to enjoy. It was quite chilly outside with temperatures in the lower 30's. Terry started breakfast while I showered. On the menu this morning:

After cleaning up the breakfast dishes we needed to make a run into town and pay a visit to Wal-Mart. What's a camping trip without a quick trip to Wal-Mart? There have been very few camping trip that we didn't have to make a Wal-Mart run. We also decided while we were out to run by Old Fort Parker. The fort is being restored and its history is  rooted deep in the early years of Texas. The fort is where Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped by Indians. She ended up living with the tribe and was the mother of Quanah Parker, the great Comanche Indian Chief. It was so neat walking around the restored fort imagining what could have been happening at the very time 100 plus years in the past.

Old Fort Parker Restoration

Old Fort Parker entrance sign

Old Fort Parker Old Fort Parker

We arrived back at our trailer after our errands in town and touring Old Fort Parker. Terry and I went up to the Rec Hall to open it for an afternoon of bingo games. We had several "takers" waiting for the bingo game to begin. Bingo is perfect for all ages and a lot of fun for a big group. Around 4:30 it was ready to start getting ready for tonight's potluck and game night that was scheduled to begin around 6:00. We were going to prepare tamales with all the fixings. We went back to the trailer to start heating up the tamales and chili and to chop onions. Since I am such a "nice" guy, I volunteered to chop the onions.  Since the temperature was so nice outside, I chopped the onions outside instead of inside the trailer. Trust me, we've chopped onions inside before and it seemed like it took forever to get the onion smell out. It had been a beautiful day, perfect weather for camping with temperatures in the middle to lower 50's.

Terry calling bingo numbers
Terry calling out the bingo numbers

Terry and I headed back to the Rec Hall around 5:30 and several other folks from our group had already started arriving. By the looks of it, we were going to have an awesome variety of food for the potluck tonight. It's funny how it always seems to work out perfectly. There were some especially awesome looking desserts. Yum, someone had made an incredible looking chocolate sheath cake. It looked so delicious. Hum....I guess I figured out what I was going to have for dinner. I'm an adult, I CAN have dessert for dinner.

North Texas Camping Association

The evening had turned quite chilly. Someone had been kind enough to build a fire in the Rec Hall's fireplace. It felt really good and provided a wonderful ambiance to the evening. Several groups had formed, playing all different kinds of board and card games. Terry and I had gotten a group together to play Skip-Bo. We ended up playing around 6 rounds before we decided to call it quits around 10:00. Russell, one of the original members of the NTXCA, said he would lock up for me and drop the key off at our trailer. There were several that wanted to play a few more games and visit before turning in for the night. Terry and I headed back to our trailer, it was nice to get out of the chilly night into the warmth of our cozy trailer. I turned in for the evening around 11:00 and Terry joined me around an hour later. She was close to finishing a book and wanted to complete it.

Fort Parker State Park - Sunday, December 30, 2007

I woke up around 6:30 and read for around an hour before Terry woke up around 7:30. I started the coffee when I heard Terry moving around. She smelled the coffee brewing. There's no way to describe the sensation of a cold clear morning in the trailer with the smell of a pot of coffee filling the trailer. It just doesn't get much better than this. We relaxed a bit before starting breakfast. On the menu this morning:

After cleaning up the breakfast dishes, showering and getting dressed, Terry decided she would take a walk over to the historic Springfield Cemetery. The cemetery has graves dating back to the early 1800's. It was going to be a perfect day for a short hike, beautiful blue skies, and temperatures in the mid-60's. Since I've got bad knees and I have trouble walking, I decided to stay at the trailer and hang out. I spent the morning reading and relaxing.

Terry and I love visiting cemeteries. We love looking at the head stones imaging what type of life the people buried there led and what kind of impact they had on the world, their families, or their friends. From the photos that Terry shot below, you can see how historic the cemetery really is. Springfield Cemetery was originally dedicated in 1838 as a 10-acre plot. The oldest tombstone in the cemetery is for an infant who died on October 3, 1849. So many of the tombstones are now unreadable due to erosion. She was also able to capture some pretty neat images of the flora in the park.

A Hike To Springfield Cemetery

Fort Parker trail
Trail leading to Springfield Cemetery
Springfield Cemetery
Springfield Tombstone Springfield Cemetery Tombstone

Around lunchtime I figured Terry would be showing up pretty soon, so I decided to start another campfire. We were having chili dogs, Fritos, cokes and cookies for dessert. As everyone knows, hot dogs can't be beat when they're cooked over a campfire. My plans and timing worked out perfectly. Right when the campfire was just right for cooking the "dogs", Terry arrived back to the trailer. She was very happy when she saw the campfire blazing and lunch laid out on the picnic table. Her hike had made her very hungry. For the rest of the afternoon, we "chilled out" beside the fire until it was time to get ready for tonight's potluck. I was preparing "Chicken Ole'" in the crock pot and a batch of "Chex Mix" for tonight's game night.

We both headed up to the Rec Hall around 5:30 to open it up for our group. Of course, the potluck was fantastic. Our group has some incredible cooks in it. After the potluck it was time for another evening of fellowship and games. Even though we had just finished our potluck an hour or so before, everyone brought out a lot of delicious snacks. Our "Chex Mix" was a big hit with the gaming crowd as well.

Around 10:00 the gaming groups started breaking up and everyone headed to the Ewald's campsite (long time members of NTXCA) for a community campfire. As soon as everyone left, we locked up the Rec Hall and headed back to our trailer. Terry headed inside to warm up and I decided I'd head down to the Ewald's to socialize for a while before heading back to our trailer for the evening. When I arrived back to the trailer around 11:00, Terry was still up reading. Shortly afterwards, we both turned in for the night.

Fort Parker State Park - Monday, December 31, 2007

Terry and I both woke up a little after 7:00. Our camping trip has been awesome with perfect weather. This morning the temperature was in the upper 30's with highs forecasted to be in the lower 50's for the day. When you're camping you can't ask for much better weather than that. Wow, the end of 2007, it doesn't seem possible. The year went by very quickly.

We were having a potluck breakfast this morning to celebrate the end of 2007. It was scheduled for 9:00. I ran up to the Rec Hall to get the big 42 cup coffee pot brewing. I left the Rec Hall open in case anyone needed use of the kitchen. I also turned up the heat just a bit to take the chill out of the building. Terry had already showered by the time I returned so it was my time to get cleaned up and dressed for the day. We decided to bring something simple for today's breakfast potluck, fresh pastries and fruit. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day when we're camping. There's something about the smells of breakfast cooking, coffee brewing and camping that naturally go together.

At 8:30 Terry and I headed up to the Rec Hall to see what was going on and help organize the group's breakfast. Of course everything was delicious and provided a perfect start for the day. Everyone pitched in to help straighten up the Rec Hall before heading back to their individual campsites for the rest of the day. We had no group activities planned until our 8:00 New Year's Eve celebration, game night, and White Elephant Gift Exchange. As I checked through the campground, several groups of folks were huddled around campfires and the kiddos were having a great time playing in the cool temperatures.

For lunch we had grilled chicken sandwiches on Artesian bread topped with Monterey Jack cheese, pico de gallo, and homemade guacamole. The sandwiches were so delicious and really hit the spot. We had a late lunch since we had nothing planned for dinner and were just going to "snack" for our New Year's Eve Celebration. During the afternoon, we both took naps so we'd actually be able to make it all the way to midnight and maybe beyond.

Around 6:00 I started preparing the chili con queso which we were bring for tonight's snack potluck. I opened up the Rec Hall early so folks could use the kitchen if they needed to. We were going to have quite the celebration tonight. I had even brought several bottles of champagne so we all could toast the end of 2007 and the start of 2008.

Terry and I headed up to the Rec Hall with chili con queso, our gifts and games. We were prepared for a wonderful evening shared with all our RV friends. Folks had already started to arrive and there was quite a pile of presents and snacks. At 8:00 Terry organized the gift exchanges. We had one for the kids first and then one for the adults. The gift exchange for the adults got very lively and competitive. There were several gifts that were "stolen" three times before the individual got to keep the gift. Of course, there was the normal "gag" gifts some of which were VERY popular. Many of the "gag" gifts were "re-gifted" each year so they were well know to everyone.

NTXCA White Elephant New Year's Eve Gift Exchange

After the White Elephant Gift Exchange, we all settled down into our groups for fun and games. Some of the folks dropped out before midnight because they were just too tired to stay up. Most of the group did make it to midnight. A bit before midnight, we got the champagne out and started popping the corks and pouring out the bubbly. At midnight we all shared a New Year's toast and started cleaning up the Rec Hall. This was our normal custom. Before we left the Rec Hall on New Year's Eve, the hall was completely cleaned, chairs stacked, and tables folded up. This way we wouldn't have to worry about it the next morning. We finished up around 1:00 in the morning, bid good night to everyone, turned off the lights and locked up the hall. We had hosted another successful campout and all had had a wonderful time.

Terry and I headed back to our trailer in the cold clear first day of 2008. It had already dropped below freezing. I heard we had a freeze warning for overnight so I had already filled our fresh water tank in the trailer and disconnected our fresh water supply hose. We turned on our tank heaters to ensure our fresh water tank wouldn't freeze. It's not a good thing when "nature calls" and you have no running water in the trailer because the outside hose is frozen. Our trailer was warm and cozy. Terry and I finally "hit the sack" around 2:00 and slept like "rocks" through the night. We were dead tired from the long day.

Fort Parker State Park - Tuesday, January 1, 2008

We both slept in until 9:00. This was highly unusual for me, but it felt good to sleep in. We both woke up very refreshed. I'm so glad I had disconnected our fresh water hose and drained it. The temperature outside was in the upper 20's. It was down-right cold outside. There was also a light wind blowing so it felt colder than it really was. I decided since it was so cold outside, sweats would be my choice of clothes to put on. I'm was glad I had sweats on when I stepped outside. Sweats and my "hoodie" felt really good to have on in the cold morning.

Since we were going to be packing up and getting ready to head for home, I decided not to make a pot of coffee, but make hot chocolate instead. We were still full from all the snacking we decided to have a quick breakfast of:

After cleaning up and stowing the breakfast dishes, I went outside to start putting up all of our outside stuff. There were lots of folks out moving around packing up and getting ready to leave. Lots of folks stopped by to thank us for hosting a very successful campout. Everyone said that they had a wonderful time at this year's outing. We pulled out of Fort Parker State Park a bit before noon and arrived at our storage facility around 2:00. We were tired but we were happy we had hosted a very successful campout. Our next campout would be in around three weeks with NTXCA to Lake Whitney State Park.

Authored by Chuck and Terry Mencke

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"Fort Parker State Park - December 27, 2007 - January 1, 2008" was last modified: August 21, 2010


Chuck and Terry's Pilgrim 281 RB-S Adventures